On the list of “Most Shameless Political Hacks in America,” Fox News political analyst and former Bush adviser Karl Rove certainly ranks near the top.
In recent years, when he hasn't been rewriting history to shelter his former boss from any responsibility for the current state of the country or forwarding the GOP Smear of the Day, Rove has spent much of his time attacking Obama and Democrats for doing precisely the types of things the Bush administration and Republicans did during Bush's tenure in the White House.
It's a sad commentary on the state of Fox News that someone with Rove's storied history of dishonesty has seemingly emerged as a voice of reason at the network.
On Friday night, Rove went on Greta Van Susteren's show and labeled Donald Trump a “joke candidate” who is “off there in the nutty right” due to his “full embrace of the birther issue.” Rove's harsh words place him at odds with several of his Fox colleagues.
For a nice contrast, watch some of the interview that Sean Hannity conducted with Trump that aired on Hannity just before Rove's interview with Greta, during which Hannity helped Trump promote his birtherism. Hannity later attributed Trump's popularity to his “torpedos of truth” and the fact that Trump is taking on “controversial issues.” He also aired graphics like this one during his show:
Hannity certainly hasn't been alone in his Trump boosterism at Fox. This morning, during Trump's regular Monday segment on Fox & Friends, host Steve Doocy dipped his toe into the birther swamp by saying that Obama “could end” birtherism “simply” by releasing his birth certificate.
Fox's senior vice president of business news Neil Cavuto has defended Trump as a serious presidential candidate and declared that “we could do worse.” Cavuto thinks Trump “talks like a boxer” and is “frank.”
The rift over Trump isn't the first time Rove has been on the opposite side of conservatives (and Fox colleagues) about a GOP candidate.
Last year, Rove said that the GOP candidate in the Delaware Senate race, Christine O'Donnell, had a “checkered background” and that she did not “evince the characteristics of rectitude and truthfulness.” Rove was pilloried for his comments by conservatives, including by regular Fox News guest Michelle Malkin, who said that Rove “came across as an effete sore loser.”
Fox hosts and personalities had spent months hyping O'Donnell and her candidacy, and Rove being Rove, he eventually backpedaled and said that he had “endorsed” O'Donnell and stated that he is “for the Republican in each and every case.”
Rove has also repeatedly criticized Sarah Palin and questioned her fitness for the presidency.
Rove's apparent disgust with Trump certainly doesn't come from a moral code that prevents him from trafficking in offensive smears of Democrats -- as just one example, Rove claimed during the health care reform debate that the Obama administration was pushing veterans toward “assisted suicide.” As always, Rove's foremost concern is with the electoral prospects of the GOP. Though I hesitate to cite Rasmussen, a poll he released today confirms concerns about Trump's electability: Only 65 percent of Republicans would support him in a general election race against Obama.
In fact, Trump's birtherism and general clownishness are putting Rove's entire network in an awkward position. Based on numbers alone, a decent chunk of Fox's audience likely adheres to the birther nonsense. The hosts and personalities need to balance keeping their audience happy with the network's foremost goal: GOP boosterism.
Of course, if Trump is somehow able to secure the GOP nomination, expect Rove's concerns about his embrace of the “nutty right” to fade away. After all, he's “for the Republican in each and every case.”